Summer 2012 Review: The Newsroom

27 Jun

The Newsroom is about a, well, newsroom, putting on a nightly news show.  The show is headed by anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, and helmed by executive producer MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), under the guidance of news division head Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston – I heart Jack McCoy forever).

Aaron Sorkin is clearly an extremely skilled writer, of dialogue in particular, even though I’ve vacillated on how much I enjoy his writing (Joss Whedon is my preferred TV staple dialogue-writing cult figure).  It’s good though, for the most part, it’s sharp and crisp, and though it can be exhausting sitting through some Sorkin conversations, they have a rhythm and a cadence that gets more comfortable over time.

Aaron Sorkin, when he’s creating a show, rather than writing a movie, is also a creator of worlds, and here his talents are not quite as proficient.  Sorkin is an utter optimist and believes things can be better; this show is about running a BETTER Newsroom; his most successful show.  I capitalize better because the problem lies in the fact that Sorkin think he knows what’s objectively better.  There’s nothing wrong with an optimistic show; not every show has to be as soul-crushing as season 4 of The Wire or Six Feet Under.  However, there’s optimistic and generally light in tone and then there’s preachy and sanctimonious, which unfortunately is where the show lies some of the time and comes awful close to lying some more of the time.

(Having briefly mentioned The Wire before, I think it’s worth noting that in fact, in many ways The Newsroom looks to be the flipside to season 5 of The Wire’s journalism plot.  Where David Simon has just as much preaching to do about the state of the journalism industry, in Simon’s world view, the good guys lose about 70% of their games, while in Sorkin’s the guys guys win that many.)

There’s also this crazy and kind of disturbing romanticism for the past; a time when enws was NEWS and the greatest generation and blah blah.  I hate past romanticism more than anything; things were different but not better in every way; we used to not give gay people rights, let along black people.  Sure, some things are always better and some things are always worse; things are different.  Jeff Daniel’s character exclaims in a controversial speech in a panel at the beginning of the show that America is not the best country in the world, but then eventually says it used to be.  I was totally with him on the first part; my-country-is-best grandstanding outside of sporting events is on of the silliest ideas prevalent throughout the U.S. that I don’t understand.  Sure, I love my country, and I’ll root for it at the World Cup but I hardly think it’s objectively better overall than every other country; it’s better in some ways, and worse in others.  Once Daniels started on the second half that America used to be better, I was turned off completely.  Not to mention this continuing idea of bemoaning the rampant partisanship of America.  My belief is, for most things, some variant of fuck compromise – I believe strongly in one side and think the other is dead wrong.

That was a little bit off track, but it wasn’t entirely because the point is, while Aaron Sorkin’s world makes it seem like a great place to leave, it’s not real life, and it’s not somewhere you’d want to be real life, and that’s because it doesn’t work.

After writing about it, I realize I think I like it less than I thought I did right when I finished the episode.  I feel confident in everything I’ve written, but it’s worth remembering before I leave off what a talented writer Sorkin is; the show has good things going for it countering the bad.

One more quick note:  The show makes the kind of odd decision to set itself on the day of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and then conceal that fact until about halfway through the episode where it’s revealed as if it’s a crazy reveal; can you believe they’re starting a news show on this day?  I don’t really understand why, if they really wanted to start that day, they couldn’t have just revealed the date at the beginning.  It’s not as if most people know the date by heart as they would September 11 or D-Day.

Will I watch it again?  Yes, Sorkin is a big enough name and a talented enough guy that I’m going to give him a little bit of leeway despite my objections.  Also, I have no other way to get my Sam Waterston fix.  I may just fast forward to Waterston parts at some point, though.

4 Responses to “Summer 2012 Review: The Newsroom”

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  4. JustMeMike December 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    I’m going through Newsroom withdrawl – like once the baseball season ends, I am at a loss. So I used the WordPress Reader and arrived here.

    The Newsroom is certain a flash point for serious discussion. You made some very good points, so I am not trying to re-stir your your post.

    But at the next to last paragraph – you said that they started a news show on this day – the day of the BP spill. That’s not correct. The series opened with that show but within the series – the news program called News Night had been in operation for some time. What was new was that the show marked the first broadcast of News Night with Mackenzie as Exec Producer.

    Then again maybe I am just misinterpreting your words, or mistaking your intent.

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